My daughter asked a question today that I was not ready for.
I thought I had years before this question. Hoped I did.
I was completely taken aback, I had no idea what to say to her.
Today, my 8-year-old looked at her sister and asked:
“Does this make me look fat?”
And my heart broke.
We don’t use the word fat in our house. I make it a point to not really talk about weight, fat, thin, or any negative body image self-talk around my girls. I’ve tried extremely hard to protect them from this asinine part of being a woman, so I have no idea where this question came from, or why it decided to surface while Olivia was putting on an apron to help me make meatballs.
I was washing out a pot, and was unsure I heard her right. I turned to her, probably with a crazy look on my face.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
Meanwhile, Eleanor was assuring her sister that she looks beautiful all the time.
How did she know to do that?
Is this an intrinsically girl thing? Was it on TV and they picked it up? Are their friends already body shamed or shaming? Where is this coming from?!
“Nothing, mom…don’t worry about it. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Well you can imagine how that went over.
I put everything down. Turned off the water in the sink. Knelt down to her height and had a talk I thought I wouldn’t even have to prepare for until middle school.
Why does an 8-year-old girl know to ask this question? (Never mind why do any of us ask it…that’s a totally different post.) Why did her face look so concerned, tears welling in her eyes, while she waited for an answer?
We talked about it. I asked her what fat meant – she had a perfect answer. I asked her why she was concerned about looking fat – she said “when I look down, I just see that.” (My heart…)
My only answer was this, and I hope it was enough because it is all I have to offer her:
I looked her right in the eyes and told her, “Honey, bodies come in all shapes and all sizes. God made us all to be perfect just the way we are and you, sweetie, you are perfect. You are eight. There is no fat when you are eight, there is just your growing body and yours is perfect. And even if you were fat, it wouldn’t make you any less than you are, or any worse. Do you understand, baby?”
(Let me tell you this, reader – that wasn’t me. That right there was Jesus speaking with my voice because I am not that good. I’m just not.)
She did have tears – one from each eye. She commented on how they taste (yep, that’s my girl!). Then she hugged me in a way my 8-going-on-16 baby hasn’t in a long time.
She needed to hear that from me. She needed to know that her mom thinks she’s perfect. That she can talk to me about feeling fat and insecure and know that I am a place of solace, not judgement.
I told her I understood not feeling great, and that I knew it had been a hot and lazy summer, and that she was making great, healthy food choices and if she wanted to, we could go for a walk tomorrow after chores. That made her smile. I also told her that dancing is a great way to feel good and move her body, to which she answered, “Oh, I know. I dance all the time!” That made me smile.
No matter how hard we work to protect our kids from things, they are bound to pop up eventually. It’s an unfortunate aspect of society but it’s there and it can’t be ignored. All we can do as parents is hope that when the time comes, we have the answers our kids need to hear so not only they are comforted and reassured, but so they can approach the same situation with their peers with compassion and kindness rather than judgement and bitterness.
Until next time,